Marshall was born in Trevose, PA, and learned about the radio business through his father, who taught the subject. After enlisting in the Army, he was stationed in China during World War II, and assigned to read 15 minute of news every night over the P.A. system. After his military service, he returned home, worked in radio as a producer, and pioneered a program in which people called in and voiced their opinions on a wide variety of subjects.
When the Rahall brothers bought WTSP in 1956, Cleaver was hired to manage the St. Pete station, whose ratings were dismal. One day he called a meeting to kick around some ideas to try and get the audience back. One idea, which he suggested, was to change the station’s music format and call letters. Making a long story short, the Rahalls went for it and that’s how stuffy Mutual affiliate WTSP became Top 40 Radio Elsie, WLCY.
Marshall is probably most remembered as the “Father of Tampa Bay Talk Radio,” the host of WLCY’s late night call-in talk show “Open Mike.” He was also the long-time 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news anchor on WLCY-TV, after the Rahalls got the nod to operate Largo’s Channel 10 in 1966.
After leaving television, he returned to radio and did morning news, joining WFLA in 1977 and later, WQYK. After his broadcast career ended, he worked for a St. Petersburg advertising agency for several years and then for the Home Shopping Network in customer service and administration. In 2004, at the age of 81, he retired and moved with his wife to Virginia to be near his three children and grandchildren.
Exceptionally generous in giving of his time and talent, Cleaver once flew to an impoverished area of Honduras with Operation Helping Hand to distribute donations. He was a frequent emcee at local events and received many awards for his charitable service, including the 1977 Helen Roberts Cultural Award from the Opera Guild.
His interests were wide-ranging. He was an expert on UFO reporting and investigation, and at one time was Florida Chairman of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.
Marshall Cleaver, the “Father of Tampa Bay Talk Radio” passed away April 1, 2014 in Reston, VA. He was 91.
1956 - 1966 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (Management)
1956 - 1966 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (On Air Personality)
1977 - 1977 Other Tampa Bay Area Stations (News)